How this Gen Z author defines herself and her approach to work in the midst of the COVID pandemic.
“You’re Too Young”–I Don’t Think So!
So many people tell me, “You’re too young to write a book.” But I also hear others say, “The future belongs to you; you can do this!” And the truth is that I am young but the future is mine and I will do this. My name is Sanam Yusuf and I am a Gen Zer.
The Path That Led Me to This Book
I met the MY JOB book series author Suzanne Skees several years ago. Despite the difference between our ages and life experiences, we just clicked. She became someone I admired and adored. And then, she wrote books!! Books about real people and real lives, genuine stories of incredible people around the world. I loved the idea of creating this community around the world through just having a job.
A few years later, she asked me to collaborate with her on a book. Why me? I don’t write books. But she said, “Because this book is about your generation, and I need you for your authentic voice and your powerful connections.” And thus was born the third book in the MY JOB Series: Gen Z.
By Gen Z, for Gen Z
You might be asking yourself, why a book about young people? We may not have “real” jobs yet. We might be just scooping ice cream, bussing tables, or babysitting. But we have aspirations, hopes, dreams, and desires, and this book is about helping those become reality, by:
- Showing what sets us apart from all previous generations—who we are and what we desire from our careers;
- Offering real-life examples of Gen Z ers pursuing their dream jobs that reveal common experiences Gen Zers face in the rapidly changing work-world;
- Profiling famous Gen Zers who’ve had national or global impact at a young age, highlighting the passion and ambition we all have; and
- Listing best-practice tips on how to discover, obtain, and succeed in your dream job, so that you can go from dreaming to attaining right now.
This book features true accounts from diverse Gen Z ers around the world, who share their own job stories. We asked questions like, What was your first job? What is your dream job? How will your career differ from your parents’? What’s most important to you in a job? Their job stories range from webcam porn actor to interior designer, partner at an accounting firm to doctor-in-training.
We Are Completely Different from Previous Generations
How do I know Gen Z is different from any cohort in history? Let me tell you how. We’re unique, innovative, and motivated. We’re design thinkers and teammates. And we diverge sharply from the conventional way of doing things.
We believe the creation of a successful environment will lead to profitable endeavors in the workplace. Employers should be open to creating new jobs that may be unheard of, and helping people develop their careers in ways that will be useful to both the company but also the skills of their employees.
Most Gen Zers will not stay in the same job their whole life; if we did, we’d be robots. That’s why we’re looking for managers and companies that will help us be successful both in our current job and future endeavors.
Somehow, We Believe in Ourselves and Each Other
We believe strongly in innovation, design thinking, and new ideas. I hear so many people around me say that no idea is a stupid idea. And it’s true! The world right now has the power to develop virtually any idea or concept, and when we invest time in every proposal, we open the door to creativity and thinking outside the box. We are Gen Z and somehow, some way, we’re optimists.
One of my teachers, Connie Liu, implemented a program at my high school called Project Invent, which empowers and supports students to develop and engineer their own products for social good. The project began at a small school in Northern California and has since spread across the United States with students designing their own products, thus mastering problem-solving skills and learning how to become advocates for their own ideas.
What We Want from our Job and Workspace
We want our workplace to be a place we enjoy going to, attractive physical spaces. I’ve spent 17 of my 19 years of my life in school, and I’ve dreaded it. Waking up early, spending seven hours in one building, coming home to hours of homework.
But what if the places we went to work at weren’t boring? Gen Z ers, and anyone really, thrive in domains that are comfortable to them. People want to be there together for a collective purpose. More and more offices are abandoning the cubicle and adopting large open tables, and there’s a reason for this. When you feel you are in a community that supports you and respects you, you want to do the work. The company culture makes you want to be there.
My father, a senior partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group, recently helped open their new Silicon Valley office based on the principle that “the physical environment you work in drives collaboration, happiness, and overall productivity.” He explains that “an open plan office, with appropriate rooms for team collaboration, is a proven approach in Silicon Valley to drive ‘breakthrough thinking.'” For my dad, the spaces we are in and the people we are surrounded with “drive” us to be better workers, better collaborators, and better people. This is the type of place where I wouldn’t mind working!
Global Citizens Who Give a Damn
We Gen Zers have a yearning to help the world around us. It’s no longer enough to just be passive bystanders while people in our own communities and around the world aren’t as fortunate. Taking care of our own is just not good enough for Gen Z. That’s why companies that put in real effort, time, and money toward their communities and environment attract people my age.
And we love everyone. We want our workplace to be one that gives space and open arms to all kinds of people. A company that focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion is imperative to us. Because if we can’t work together in the workplace, how can we work together to change the world?
Disrupted Again, This Time by Pandemic and Recession
Right now, we are facing an unprecedented time. Our jobs are happening from our living rooms and bedrooms; our personal and public lives are slowly blending; and our “normal” way of life has been changed drastically. We could choose to see this as a negative, it’s bothersome and disadvantages us because maybe we missed graduation or prom, our summer plans are cancelled and we have to study online. Or, we can choose to see it as a positive. Nothing like this has happened in your life and likely won’t happen again. Use it! Do something creative and take advantage of this time.
I invite you to take part in my generation’s journey in the workplace in the pages of this book . . . See what we’re made of and what we can do in the world.
Cover photograph of coauthor courtesy of Sanam Yusuf.